Dave and I climbed Angel's Crest on a misty day in August. Although the entire climb is worthy of much deliberation, this article focuses on the hidden gem of the route: the 10b offwidth variation located halfway up the climb. Besides, Dan and Nick described their Angel's Crest adventure in plenty of detail back in July.
Although he's too modest to say it, Dave is a superb offwidth climber. Me? I'm an unabashed offwidth nubie. I own a #6 but it's as shiny as a polished dime. To protect the route, Dave brought two Trango Big Bros and a #6. "I'll walk the #6 until I can get a good place to set the first Big Bro, then I'll fire up to where I can place the second."
The crack maintains a relentless 7" width and trends slightly left. For this reason, Dave decided he'd climb it with his left hip and shoulder into the crack. Both feet would heel-toe cam to gain purchase and he could use his left arm to chicken-wing and arm-bar to secure the purchase gained by his feet. Offwidth climbing is a special science. As I watched Dave thrutch up the first 20 ft and place the #6, I memorized his technique. With the giant cam and Big Bro placed he did just what he'd planned; fire the next thirty feet to where he could find a suitable rest and place the second Big Bro. From there he was awarded just enough face holds and small discontinuous cracks to avoid the mandibles of the off-width crack, and Dave climbed easily to the top.
The aftermath: torn pants, bandages, abraded arms, and chewed ankles.
Dave hauled up the pack with the rack attached to it. There was no way I'd climb with it if it could be avoided. Copying Dave's technique to a T, I thrutched up the off-width gaining one inch of the top rope for every heaving grunt that echoed in the North Gully. Sweating profusely, I held a heel-toe cam while I fished Dave's tipped out #6 from its precarious hiding place from deep within the bowels of the beast. "Damn it, Dave!" Luckily I had kept my nut tool attached to my harness and now I used it to fish out the cam, walking one tipped-out lobe at a time till I could reach the trigger. When I finally made it to the top, I was beat. Dave and I grinned at each other and laughed at our cuts and torn clothing. Dave had a sparkling abrasion on his left arm from repetitive motion of the chicken-winging; I had a hole torn straight through the ass of my pants.
Trotting off to the next pitch of Angel's Crest (the start of the amazing "Acrophobes" pitches) we chatted to a few parties that had caught up to us during our hour-long fracas up the offwidth pitch. They pointed to our wide-crack gear and congratulated us on our efforts, beaming at our victory wounds. Dave and I exchanged a glance. "Dave, I think I'm starting to understand what offwidth climbing is all about."
Check out a selection of favourite moments from Angel's Crest below.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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